by Kavitha Sivashanker, Fellow,
National Women’s Law Center
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in all federally funded educational programs. It has opened up many more opportunities for girls and women in education since its passage, and high school athletics is one such area where this landmark legislation has made a tremendous difference in girls’ lives (and in my life).
I started playing tennis at the age of 5, and it was a huge part of my life growing up. So when I entered high school, it never even occurred to me that the opportunity to participate on my high school tennis team would likely not have existed in 1971. Research has shown the many benefits of competitive athletics for girls, especially for minority female athletes, and playing tennis on my high school’s varsity team definitely had a positive impact on my academic and social experiences in high school. It helped me learn how to perform under pressure, how to work effectively as a team, and maybe most importantly, it developed my self-confidence and ability to persevere in difficult situations.
Before Title IX’s passage, fewer than 300,000 high school girls played competitive sports. And now, over 3 million do. We clearly have come a long way, but Title IX’s goal of equal opportunity in athletics remains far from realized. Too many women and girls are still not being treated fairly by their schools when it comes to sports. We must continue to work to increase female athletic opportunities in high school, college, and beyond. In its 38 years in existence, Title IX has helped us make great strides, but as we look back on our accomplishments, we must also remember to continue advocating for the right that all girls and women have to equal educational opportunities.